Piers Francis warns anyone who believes his England career is over to think again after knocking back offers from abroad to keep his Test dreams alive.
Northampton centre Francis, 30, achieved a boyhood dream by appearing at last year’s World Cup but failed to make the subsequent Six Nations squad after being ruled out with a head injury.
However, armed with a new club contract, Francis is determined to ensure his hat stays in the ring.
“Playing for England remains my ambition – 100 per cent,” Francis told The Rugby Paper.
“It was a lifelong ambition to play in a World Cup for England and the experience has made me even hungrier.
“I understood my position in the team and that my opportunities would be limited if there were no injuries, but that only heightens my desire to be starting.
“You want to be right in the middle of it and that’s a big part of the reason I’ve recommitted to Saints.
“I had options to go abroad but I wanted to stay in England to keep that hope alive around continuing my international career, which massively motivates me.”
Francis’ attitude will be music to the ears of the RFU, whose policy of not selecting players playing abroad has come under fire.
Francis added: “I’ve had a few texts from Eddie Jones and we’ve had zoom calls for the outside backs, so I’m keeping in touch with the lads.
“I feel like my most productive years are ahead and from a playing perspective I’ve enjoyed my time at Northampton, so being here in England is a big factor for me.
“I’m concentrating on getting better and if you want to be in the England mix, there’s no better place to be than Saints.”
Northampton will resume their league campaign in fourth place when they eventually take on Wasps, and Francis believes they can have a big say in the title race.
“We feel we’re in really good shape,” he said. “There was a bit of a rocky period just before Covid, but we had a big result at Worcester to keep us in the top four.
“A lot’s happened in the meantime, but as a club Northampton’s probably dealt with it best and I’m more than happy to be moving forward with this team.
“We want to give ourselves an opportunity to win silverware now and, while we’d love to get a home semi-final, anything can happen when you hit the play-offs.
“Our sights are on Wasps in the middle of August and, hopefully, the sun will shine and we can hit the restart playing the kind of good rugby we know we can.”